Bucs defensive tackles Ellis Wyms (shoulder) and Damian Gregory (knee), wide receiver Larry Brackins (hamstring) and running back Charlie Garner missed significant playing time last year and during the offseason, and were expected to take physicals Thursday evening after reporting to training camp.

Head coach Jon Gruden suggested both Garner and Brackins could be placed on the physically unable to perform list to start camp, depending on how they’ve recovered from their respective injuries.

Gruden also said the team would use precaution for some of the players they have recovering from offseason surgery.

“We’re going to use common sense and see where they are and how they feel on a daily basis,” said Gruden.

While the team has lingering injury issues with some players, veteran left tackle Derrick Deese is reporting to training camp healthy this year. That is a far cry from last year when he was bothered by an injured ankle and a bone spur that eventually required surgery.

“Last year when I came to camp I was coming off ankle surgery,” Deese said. “Basically, it was like a broken ankle. It got fixed and then I got into camp and I don’t know if it was overcompensating on the other foot while the ankle was hurt, but I had a bone spur in that (foot). We tried to avoid surgery on that but it just wasn’t going to work, so I had surgery and it set me back learning the offense and about my teammates. When I got back it was real close to the season and we were still making changes to our offensive line. It took me a good four or five weeks into the season before I really understood the offense and secure in what I was doing.”

Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott reported to his 10th training camp as a Buccaneer on Thursday.

Although some have speculated that this could be Alstott’s final season in the NFL, the “A-Train” said Thursday that he’s focused on helping the Bucs battle back from two straight losing seasons, not retirement.

“I’m just thinking about tomorrow morning and getting up at 8:00 a.m. for the first one,” said Alstott, who turns 32 in December. “And then I’ll be thinking about putting the pads on for the first time and trying to make it through that one.

“Retirement is not an issue right now. It’s not in my mind. I just want to win another championship. I know what it feels like a world championship, and I want to win another one.”

The Bucs restructured Alstott’s contract during the offseason, and although it was a two-year deal, it was set up in a way that would allow the team to part ways with six-time Pro Bowler after this season.

Tampa Bay started slow on both offense and defense last year, and as a result, the Bucs went 0-4 to open the 2004 regular season.

The Bucs want to start the season much faster in all areas, and they know those habits have to be formed early in training camp and preseason.

“They did some stats in the offseason and when we score first, we have a higher percentage chance of winning games,” Deese said. “And if we don’t score, and the other team scores first, they have a higher percentage of winning those games. When we get the ball first on our first possession we want to go down and score and get points. That’s the bottom line. We also have to be able to use that heat that we have in Tampa to our advantage. I remember coming in on the other side. You come in here and you are just exhausted at halftime. We need to take advantage to that.”

“We want to get off to a good start, and we’ve got to start fast,” fullback Mike Alstott added. “We have a tendency of not starting so fast. That’s our goal. Let’s get going and start fast.”

Bucs Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks echoed Deese’s sentiments regarding fast starts, going as far as saying the team must do a much better job of capitalizing on the homefield advantage at Raymond James Stadium, where the Bucs have went just 7-9 over the past two seasons.

“We’ve got to do a better job of staying focused at home,” Brooks said. “When we are on the road, the defense is emphasized and we do play better early in the ballgames. We have to have that same attitude here at home, whether it is changing the schedule, different approaches ¬- I don’t know. Whatever it is, the offense, defense and special teams must start better at home. We have to use our home as our advantage, which is something we haven’t done the past two years. In the past, teams coming in here knew their chances of winning weren’t very good. We have to re-establish that attitude and re-establish that dominance.

“It goes back to starting fast. Teams trying to get their running game established instead of their passing game. We have to do a better job of that – run defense starting faster.”

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at:
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